Posted by: hevallo | October 28, 2008

Self Criticism from Mehmet Ali Birand, Turkey’s Leading Liberal.

“Let’s not fool each other … Let’s stop blaming foreign powers or Barzani only for the PKK’s present situation … Most of all, let’s stop citing fear as the sole reason for the support it finds in the Southeast. Let’s look at our own mistakes. Let’s call ourselves to account for all those wasted years.”
I don’t want to look back as far as the Ottoman Empire or even Atatürk’s time, or to the mistakes made during the founding years of the young republic. The wrong attitude adopted towards the Kurdish issue at that time is understandable in some ways. The international conjuncture, the dispersed condition of Kurdish communities and the requirements of upholding a young Republic, caused this country to view the Kurdish issue from other angles.

I will stop at a much more recent time. In the 1980s, we had a well-established republic and a country with increasing self-confidence. As for the Kurds in or outside Turkey, they took stock of their situation and started to pursue their rights. Kurdish nationalism had surfaced.

The military coup of September 12 saddled Turkey with this big chronic headache by preventing the country from seeing the facts in this issue. In other words, it was the mentality and the practices of the September 12 administration that led to the founding and the initial development of the PKK. The “September 12 mentality” caused the enlargement of the swamp that fed the PKK.

Each step taken with that mentality – claiming that there were no such people as Kurds, but mountain Turks; preventing Kurds from giving Kurdish names to their children; changing the Kurdish names of villages; expatriating Kurdish nationalists who had escaped to Europe; and subjecting them to horrible torture at the Diyarbakır-helped the PKK to grow and prosper.

The PKK was a byproduct of the Sept. 12 military coup and later developed by feeding on internal and external support.

Initiative left to military in 90s
The beginning of the 1990s was also marked by statements to the effect that these men were bandits and were not to be taken seriously. Soon afterwards, however, it became apparent that the PKK had taken almost complete control in the Southeast.

That was when Turkey began to wake up (1985-1995). It became clear that this was not some simple bandit story and that the country was facing a big and bloodthirsty terror organization.

It also became obvious that the PKK had taken root among our citizens of Kurdish origin. Turgut Özal was the first to take some counteraction by lifting the ban on Kurdish songs. Nothing drastic happened either. Özal might have taken other steps in this direction, but he did not live long enough.

Then Prime Minister Süleyman Demirel shed some hope when he said, “We recognize the Kurdish reality.” However, catching a golden opportunity in North Iraq after the 1991Gulf War, the organization escalated its acts of bloody violence. That was a new situation altogether. What followed was violent battle. Now, only guns were talking. “Impossible to talk of reforms before the end of terror,” officials said. This lasted until 1998.

Turkey had both managed to marginalize the PKK in the Southeast and to convince Syria to throw Abdullah Öcalan out from the Bekaa Valley, when we got extremely lucky.

We did nothing in 2000s.
Washington, or better said, President Clinton, decided to deliver Öcalan to Turkey. There was one condition: The PKK leader was not to be executed or to die accidentally on the way. Turkey accepted that condition. The MHP-DSP-ANAP coalition not only kept its word, but it also took the first modest steps in the use of Kurdish.

In return, Öcalan ordered the PKK to cease-fire and to send its militant fighters to North Iraq. The PKK and its weapons were moved to Kandil and the state of emergency was lifted. The Southeast soon began to turn green. The smell of gunpowder was gone. Terror incidents, as well as anonymous murders, were over. Investments increased at once. The Southeast prospered. Sad and desolate expressions were replaced by smiling faces. Then the waiting began.

Everything was set to start draining the swamp created by the Kurdish issue. The organization was up in the Kandil Mountain and its members were looking for jobs at North Iraq stores and markets. Terror and murder were being replaced by normal daily life. More and more, PKK members began to come down the mountain. The waiting still continued. Ankara failed to act.

The Ecevit-Bahçeli-Yılmaz coalition soon forgot all about Öcalan and the Kurdish issue. The AKP victory at the November 2002 elections that followed the major economic crisis of 2001 rebuilt the hopes. AKP seemed more likely to understand the Kurds than other parties. It turned out to be just as slow.

The State of the Turkish Republic did not move a finger until 2006. The Kurdish issue was ignored. The PKK used this gap to make good use of the conjuncture that had changed, especially following America’s occupation of Iraq in 2003. It pulled itself together and began to return to life in 2006. It completed its recovery under our very eyes. It once more began to feed on the Southeast population and to spread terror and to attract attention by killing people.

If the authorities in Ankara had not wasted the seven- to eight-year period between 1999-2006, if the investments that Erdoğan talks so proudly of today, as well as the round the clock TV broadcast in Kurdish and the steps to provide education in Kurdish had been initiated as of 1999 or 2000, the PKK could neither have recovered its former power nor re-enlisted the support of the people in the Southeast.

Let’s not fool each other … Let’s stop blaming foreign powers or Barzani only for the PKK’s present situation … Most of all, let’s stop citing fear as the sole reason for the support it finds in the Southeast. Let’s look at our own mistakes. Let’s call ourselves to account for all those wasted years.

If we fail to ask those questions, to review our attitude accordingly and to take new steps now, our grandchildren are bound to call us to account for “what we did to this beautiful country.”

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